This weeks theme from Amy Johnson Crow ‘s blog is Unusual – What is the most unusual record you have ever found? I chose to write about my 2x Great Grandmother Clara Sweeney. I first met Clara on her daughter Hattie Raymond’s death certificate. Through a series of interesting finds, I think I have pieced together a sketch of her life.
Clara Sweeney was born around 1852 in Canada to Mitchell Sweeney and perhaps Mary. I have never found any documentation of her mother with Clara but have found a Mitchell Sweeney married to a Mary in 2 censuses. The 1870 census reveals a son named A T Sweeney who is 16. The will of Mitchell Sweeney names a daughter Sophia who was to receive $5.00 and Clara who was to receive $5.00. The woman he was married to was Angeline who only had one child with a previous husband. So if all of this is correct, Clara had a sister Sophia and a brother A T. The family moved to America in 1856 and this date stayed consistent through all the documents found.
I believe that the family moved to Minnesota first because the 1870 census shows an M Sweeney with Mary and A T living on a farm in Prescott, Faribault, MN. This is important because I found a marriage license for Clara Sweeney and Lewis Stowe in 1868 and the town was Winnebago, Faribault, MN. The Stowe family lived in Verona, Faribault, MN. The towns of Prescott and Verona are next to each other and Winnebago is just north of Verona. Therefore, I believe that the M Sweeney in the 1870 census is Clara’s father.
From the marriage between Clara and Lewis, they had a son, James Mitchell Stowe in 1869. Shortly after, Clara, Lewis, and Mitchell moved to California. The 1880 census reveals that Lewis has a different wife and more children. What is also important is that James Mitchell is living with his father, Lewis. Following James Stowe, he eventually married and named a daughter Clara after his mom. I have seen other trees on various sites for James Stowe and no one seems to know what happened to Clara Sweeney, his mother.
I found another marriage license in California for a Clara Stowe and Harry Raymond. They were married in 1875. They had a daughter named Hattie in 1876 who is my great grandmother. Now this is where I found documentation that is interesting. The 1880 census as I stated above shows Clara’s son James living with his father in Soquel, CA. That same census I found a Harry Raymond living in San Jose, California as a hotel clerk, although I am not 100% sure this is my 2x great grandfather. The same census reveals a Clara Sweeney living in Chico, CA. The name checks out, the age 27 checks out, the place of birth for her and her parents check out-all Canada, she is listed as married, BUT there is no child and she is listed with 3 other women in a home and they are all prostitutes. Is this my Clara Sweeney? All the evidence is there except no child. Seeing as her first child is living with her first husband, maybe she let someone else care for Hattie while she earned a living. The census in Chico shows that these women are living next door to a policeman and that there is another house full of prostitutes living down the street. There is one other prostitute listed in the town living next door to the town marshall. This town had a large lumber industry at the time and it would be common to find prostitutes in those areas. I looked into the other women in the house with Clara, and 2 are sisters from a well known family in town. One of the ladies, Mollie, died a few years later and the cemetery she is buried in gives tours and talks about how famous and loved Mollie was by people in the town and they pooled money to pay for her burial.
Fast forward to 1890 where her daughter Hattie at only 14 years, married my great grandfather (a lumberjack) in Wisconsin. Clara can be found in the 1895 Minnesota census with her daughter and only one of Hattie’s two children. The other child was raised by her paternal grandparents.
Clara can be found again in the 1900 census in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin with her daughter and 2 of her 3 children. Hattie remarried and took her children with her at some point before 1905. Clara can be found in the 1905 Wisconsin census with four boarders, all women. She appears in the 1910 census alone and her occupation was- own income. I wonder what she was doing? A business ad in a 1900 Chicago newspaper was found. I don’t know if this is her but I found it interesting.
Lady Desires To Meet Refined Elderly gentleman with means who would assist her and take an interest in her; no agents. Address Mrs. Clara Raymond, General Delivery.
I found Clara in 3 city directories all in Fond du Lac and all different addresses. First 1901 listed as Mrs Clara Raymond, then 1909 listed as Raymond, Clara (wid Harry), and 1921 Clara R Raymond (wid Harry). Pinpointing Harry’s death has eluded me so far as Clara was listed as married in the 1910 census but widowed in the 1909 city directory. I have never seen Harry Raymond and Clara listed together on a census but he may have been on the 1895 census listed as Harry Welch living in her household. Finally, I did find a Clara Raymond living in Yolo, CA in the 1920 census. I do not know if this is her but I do know that her son James Mitchell Stowe died in 1940 in California. So she may have been out there for a while but I just don’t know for certain.
I don’t know what to make of all of this, but it is appearing that this branch of the family may have led a colorful life. I only wish I had known to ask questions before my grandfather and father passed away. My grandfather may have known something because he was on a census with Clara in 1900 and they both lived in Fond du Lac for about 20 years. The only information passed down to me was a branch of his family came from Fr Canada.
The last document I have of Clara Sweeney is her death in Chicago which is where her daughter Hattie, grandchildren Rosanna and Harry(my grandfather), and great grandchildren Eddie, Harry(my father) and Charles were living. According to the death certificate, she had been living in Chicago for 6 years. Her last month she was living at the Little Sisters of the Poor on Harrison Ave in Chicago. I looked it up and they have a blog and what a coincidence, the pope visited the home of a branch of this order in the Washington DC area when he was here last week. They are known for providing a loving home for the elderly poor. At the age of 77, Clara Sweeney died in Chicago on June 4, 1928. I am unable to clearly tell what the cause of death is. I have a suspicion but am asking people to give me their opinion before I reveal what I think is written. Any comments are welcome. According to the death certificate, she was buried in Mt Carmel cemetery in Chicago, IL on June 6, 1928. I know the location of the grave and am awaiting word to find out if it has a marker.
Update: I agree with the people who think the cause of death is chronic syphillis. Also, there is no marker for her grave but Cynthia came through for me again and found her unmarked grave, put flowers there and took a beautiful photo. Thank you.